Yesterday, I finally finished reading Kevin Watson’s A Blueprint for Discipleship.
Kevin and I attended seminary together. The one outstanding memory I have of Kevin is the fact that I lost a bet to him regarding his beloved Houston Astros (Go Red Sox!).
I don’t think this book could have come at a better time for me. I have been wrestling with a lot of things that do not make sense for me about the UMC and the whole ordination process. The book just reaffirmed why I am going through this ordination process as a United Methodist.
Kevin writes in his opening chapter that the churches have been “watering down the expectations that come with being a disciple of Jesus Christ” and I couldn’t agree with him more. In the Bible, many people were shocked at the commitment that Jesus wanted, and they walked away from him. But today, it seems like the word ‘disciple’ is non-existent in the average church.
Kevin writes that the survival mentality that many of our churches have cannot be what God desires. Instead, we should “choose to live, not by our own power, but by stubbornly deciding to depend on God’s grace.” I begin to think what would a church look like that stubbornly depended on God.
While I enjoyed the entire book, I think the last 4 chapters spoke to me the most. The 6th chapter begins with the 3rd General rule: to practice the ordinances of God.
I think when it comes to practicing the Christian disciplines, many Christians take on the Allen Iverson stance. “Practice? We’re talking practice! Not a game. We’re talking about practice! How silly is that?”
Kevin goes through what the ordinances of God are: public worship; ministry of the Word; Lord’s Supper; prayer; reading scripture; and fasting or abstinence.
It’s saddening to say, that from my (limited) experience, that we aren’t doing as well as we should be in the ordinances of God.
Worship isn’t held as highly as it should be. Worship service becomes more about us than about God. Often times, Sundays are like having our cars serviced and then going our own way afterward, thankful that our car works, which is strikingly different from what Wesley had in mind. “The early Methodists did not allow people who routinely neglected to come to worship to call themselves Methodists.” How different would all of our churches look if we still held that standard?
Kevin also tells us that “Methodists were known for being particularly bold in their public proclamation of the gospel.” And I ask, what happened to that?
The most frustrating thing that I see in our UM churches is the lax view of reading the scripture and praying. Again, I remind you, this is just from my limited experience. Kevin writes why these are important parts of our spiritual lives. I fully agree with him when he says that we say these practices are important, but “saying that it is important and actually doing it can be very different things.”
I really appreciated the next chapter: Finding the Balance. Kevin’s balance points were Faith and Works; Personal Piety and Social Actions; and Love of God and Love of neighbor, and we Methodists are at our best, these three balance points are evident.
Kevin argues “small-group accountability is the thread that ties all the pieces of Wesleyan discipleship together.” I couldn’t agree with him more. All the growing non-denominational churches seem to have a strong small group ministry that they implement. In all honesty, it seems like a lot of those mega-churches implement Wesleyan ideas, or things that John Wesley viewed important.
Why then, as UM churches, do we not implement the very things Wesley argued for?
And why do we allow committee meetings to take precedence over small group/class meetings?
Kevin ends the book with a hope that we will be awakened and that we will repent for often settling “for a weak God.” He hopes that we “can turn away from nominal Christianity, humble ourselves and return to the method behind Methodism.”
This book reminded me why our denomination and our view on scripture is unique and needed in this world. Kevin reaffirmed my call into the United Methodist denomination and reminded me that, yes, there is still hope for us and not all is lost (which is something that crossed my mind more often than I liked)
What I really want to do, is have a small group discussion about this book. I think this book can really help churches look beyond being Christians and focus on being disciples, and if anything, it can start dialogues and discussions in our churches about the blueprint for discipleship and get our members (re)acquainted with the General Rules.
I believe this book and the questions that are at the end of each chapter can really challenge our churches to “return to the method behind Methodism” which will find us going towards God and find our way home. “Finding our home with God is, after all, what the Wesleyan blueprint for disciple is all about.”